(Back from vacation. Thanks for waiting, folks.)
One of my favorite collections of short stories is Ilse Aichinger’s exquisite “The Bound Man and Other Stories,” written in the 1950s, and available in many translations, but primarily through rare books vendors here in the States. (The link below is a PowerPoint document of Eric Mosbacher’s English translation.)
Aichinger is better known everywhere else in the world. Yet another senseless literary crime.
At any rate, in the title story, a man is mugged, bound, left by the side of the road, and when he awakes, he struggles for awhile against his ropes, but finds a way to his feet, learns to hop along in his bindings, excels at the hopping, and finds, after awhile, that he likes the bindings and his ability to maneuver within them. They make him remarkable. He joins the circus. He becomes famous as a bound man. He works very hard to keep others from removing his bindings.
It’s an amazing story. I won’t tell you how it ends.
At any rate, it’s haunted me for years and years.
My husband reads Dave Barry columns to me. (I’ll bet you’re wondering where this is going? Hang in there, it gets more strange.) I don’t know when we started this – many years ago — he read to cheer me up during some illness, found I laugh my guts out at Barry. (Hubby has a way with Barry. I can never read them by myself and get exactly the same effect.) So it’s one of our strange traditions.
He read one last night wherein Dave reports on a new form of binding, or undergarment, that is supposed to reshape an aging female bottom. Or a shapeless female bottom. It’s the silliest device you ever saw. It looks like an opportunity to manage new kinds of elastic strap lines, a way to invest in creams and lotions to cure a particularly wicked new kind of chafing, like a good way to rid oneself of excess cash, but not really like something that will enhance the view of you from behind.
And I’m terribly afraid it’ll be a big hit anyway.
We women do love to reshape our flesh. We invest heavily in the means and machines to do that. We want our youthful plumpnesses where we want them and our zero-bodyfat parts where we want those. Nevermind the physiological conflict there. We will inject, mold, rub, fry, incise, scrub, scrape, burn, starve, and peel to get there. For a lot of coin.
And we will live with our bindings, and love them, and defend ourselves from anyone who would take them away.
I know this because I will wear stilettos on occasion, and have tried super strength under things more than once in my life. And both things hurt like hell. But I will wear them again. And I will think, hey these don’t hurt as much as corsets or foot binding, so what am I whining about?
If you lose a substantial amount of weight in mid-life, and work out hard, you will regain your health. You will grow stronger and stronger, and will build your metabolism and your bones, and feel better, sleep better, and stave off a premature death.
But you won’t necessarily look great naked.
No one can guarantee that. And that’s too bad. You are not guaranteed to look great in the stuff you’ll find at shopjlo.com.
That’s probably a blessing.
But you will look great in some other styles. Your eyes will shine even if the wrinkles take over. Your skin will glow right through the age spots. I know this too. I hang out with enough people my own age to know this. Exercise and eating well will make you look your best. For sure.
I would love to see the baby boomers get together on something. I’d like to see us stop pouring so much money into trying to make 60-year-olds look like teenagers. It’s time to get back to our original idea, and use that money to feed people, cure people, while using our incredible numbers to change the world’s idea about age and beauty. About age and sexy. About age and fun. You know you thought Katherine and Audrey Hepburn were exquisite right up until the ends of their lives. You did. And I’m guessing they were relatively unbound in their later years.
Investigate pictures of your relatives in the 1920’s, having fun. No big concern for cellulite, wrinkles, or sagging bottoms there. Just a concern about sourcing the gin. Hey, maybe the gin helped them forget their sagging butts?
Let’s get back to ignoring or even learning to love the wrinkles and the sags a little. If we can. We can try. I’d like to try. As usual, it’ll be easier to love them on someone else, before I can love them on me. I’ll work on this if you will. It will take courage. It will take all of us.
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